I didn’t know what was going on. But I knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t all good.
Mama Nkechi was holding Mama so tightly. Even though the big body of Mama would toss the skinny body of Mama Nkechi around, she persisted in holding mama from thrashing and kicking.
Our sitting room was so filled to the brim with people that it threatened to spill over.
The first time people thronged to our house was when Papa invited them for a celebration. They came and had their stomachs filled with the rice and Salad Mama and other women who came around had prepared.
That night, Papa told me and Ezinne my younger sister that our lives were taking a new leave. He told us that the government had called him up for a peace treaty. I couldn’t understand why Papa would have to hold a celebration when he was leaving —when he had planned to leave us behind to a different world altogether.
I have known and tasted Papa’s love. And I could tell that it was a whole lot different from other father’s. I had lost count of times when Papa Ejindu would have to let his son fall into his broad embrace as he patted him at the back. Most times he would have to sing lullaby before Ejindu could sleep.
Unlike Papa Ejindu, Papa would rush at my fall, would let me rise to my feet, would dust me and would say, “watch it, be careful and stay strong.” He would help me carry the log of wood to my head and he would throw his face away not wanting to notice the tension mounting on my neck.
The first time I tasted Papa’s warm embrace was when I fell sick. He let me fell into his arms. My ears were pressed against his chest. I heard his heart drum under his chest. I danced to the lub-dub sound as he scooped from a cup, the mixture of Milk and Malt and forced it down my throat. He smelt distinctly unlike mama who smelt like the sweet apple Lavanda lotion oil. At that point, I wished he could hold me tightly like that forever.
Now, I sat close to mama fighting the tears. I knew that was what Papa would have me do at that point. Mama was calling Papa’s name. She was asking him why he had to choose that path he chose. Asking him who he had left us for?
Papa was a soldier. He had told me the day he helped me with my homework. And it was his duty to serve the country with his life. A country that would never assume Papa’s role in our lives.
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